Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
August 23, 2020 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community, Palm Springs, CA
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Isaiah 22:19-23 | Psalm 138:1-3;6,8
Romans 11:33-36 | Matthew 16:13-20
The theme of all of today’s readings from the Gospel of Matthew, Isaiah, and Romans is the Church. In fact, Matthew 18:15-17 is one of only three places in the Gospels where the word “church” is actually mentioned.
In our current time, aside from the pandemic, many people, especially Generations X, Y or the Millenials, and Gen Z have drifted away from attending church.
Maybe among your own friends or family, you have heard statements such as:
“My children give me an argument when I tell them to get ready for church.”
“My teenage son/daughter refuses to participate in Confirmation Classes.”
“My married son and his wife have not made any plans to baptize their baby.”
“When my adult children visit us at Christmas, they will not even join us for Mass.”
Comments like these can be frustrating to parents who have tried their best to pass on their faith to their children. They took their children to church regularly and ensured they were taught religious education. So these parents have learned that having children who know their faith does not mean that they will live it.
Since humans are typically influenced more by the people they know in their lives than by the things they learn, it is understandable that the same holds true for faith.
Just as Peter and the other disciples came to their faith through their encounter with Jesus, we need to bring all children and adults back to faith by having a personal relationship with God.
In today’s first reading from Isaiah, the Lord promises to drive Shebna from his office as master of the palace: a position that Shebna takes great pride from, and replace him with Eliakim, who will be given the key to the House of David to preside. This message to Shebna is a reproof of his pride, vanity, and earthly grandeur.
In our second reading today from Romans, Paul orates a poem to express his awe for God’s ways, God’s wisdom, and God’s mercy for us. God’s decisions and thoughts are beyond us and His love is everlasting.
In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Peter makes his famous confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus responds with His plans for building His church.
Last Sunday, Fr. David reviewed the story of the Canaanite woman who encountered Jesus.
At this period in time, there was much false teaching about Jesus, mainly by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus called it, “yeast” because of its effects on people and the disciples had trouble understanding this at first, thinking that Jesus was actually referring to bread. But they came to realize what Jesus meant.
Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought of Him. Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
So Jesus asked again, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter was speaking on behalf of all the disciples when he answered.
Jesus praised Peter by saying, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
Peter got it right! This revelation of Peter was brought by the Father. Such knowledge can only originate from above.
Then Jesus announces that He is about to build His Church. He states, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
This statement introduces the name “Peter”. The Aramaic name is Kepa (Cephas) and the Greek translation is Petros. The Aramaic word means “rock.” But the phrase “on this rock” uses the feminine form of the word, petra.
So this brings into question the meaning of the word “rock” used: does it mean that Peter would be a small stone and Jesus is the rock on which the church is founded?
Some scholars believe that the rock on which the church will be built is the confession that Peter made: the truth about Jesus.
It should be noted that if you interpret this to mean that Jesus is going to build His church on the foundation of the apostles, it does not mean apostolic succession, papal infallibility, or exclusive authority for the successors of Peter.
All that the text states are that Jesus established His church on the apostles: their teachings, writings, Scriptures, and organization were inclusive.
Jesus is the builder of the Church and the apostles are the foundation. Since Peter was the first to make his confession, he is the first among equals.
Then Jesus gives the keys to the Kingdom to Peter. So the metaphor changes from rock/foundation to the keys of the kingdom. The one with the keys has the power to admit or exclude people. The metaphor of the “keys” refers to the proclamation by Peter meaning the kingdom would be open to many but shut to others, or open to those who were saved.
Are these keys given to Peter only or to all the apostles? Or to all Christians?
If the keys symbolize the proclamation of the Gospel, then they are the possession of all believers.
Lastly, Jesus requests that the disciples keep His identity a secret. Jesus did so as He wanted people to come to faith in Him just as Peter and the disciples had done, through revelation brought by God, the Father.
We were all created to have a close personal relationship with God that will bring us to know God and bring happiness, hope, and purpose in our lives. Since the Bible proclaims that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, we define having a close personal relationship with God as having a relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Jewish people were only able to have a relationship with God through the sacrificial system God had established, known as “the Law”. Since the Jewish people weren’t perfect (as are none of us) they needed to offer God sacrifices in order to grow closer to God. Jesus lived the perfect sinless life and died as a sacrifice for us.
Now, in order to have a relationship with God, we just need to believe in Jesus and to follow Him to lead a fulfilled life.
Let us pray:
God, I realize that I’m not perfect. I know I have made mistakes and I ask your forgiveness for them. I want my life to be led by You. I want to learn more about You and to discover your good plans for my life. I want You to guide me and show me how to have the abundant life I’m craving. I want You to shape me into the person You want me to be. This I ask in Your name.